Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

Feb 13, 2012

  • Contraception Debate Drowns Out Budget Talk

    By Jackie Calmes, New York Times

    The new White House chief of staff, Jacob J. Lew, made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to discuss the budget that President Obama is to release on Monday, but instead he was forced repeatedly to defend the administration’s effort to guarantee that insurers cover birth control for women in the face of criticism from religious groups.
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  • Rick Santorum's Popularity Rising

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    Rick Santorum is "clearly rising" in public opinion polls in his race against the other GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, reports CNBC's John Harwood: "It's a very, very unusual race," he adds.

    Watch Video on CNBC

  • Obama Pitches Middle While GOP Eyes Base

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    The dustup over contraception underscored President Barack Obama's political edge in working to attract independent voters without alienating his Democratic base. His Republican rivals are forced to keep emphasizing their conservative credentials to attract the right-leaning activists who dominate the nominating contests.
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Feb 10, 2012

  • CPAC Buzz Reflects Disenchantment With GOP Field

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    At last year’s annual gathering of conservative activists, anticipation ran high about a bevy of bold, charismatic Republicans like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Rep. Paul Ryan who seemed poised to make President Obama a short-timer in Washington. One year later, Daniels, Christie, and Ryan aren’t running for president, and many of the voters at the Conservative Political Action Conference are still looking for a standard-bearer. Nine months out from Election Day, a surprising number of people here are unsatisfied with the Republican field, weary of the increasingly bitter primary and desperate for positive inspiration.
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    CPAC 2012 in Washington, DC (CNN)

  • A Game of Two Halves

    By Greg Ip, The Economist

    Even people who don’t normally care much for football tune in to the Super Bowl to watch the best commercials Madison Avenue can dream up. The most talked about this year was Chrysler’s gritty tribute to the economic revival of America and Detroit. More short film than commercial, it ends with the actor Clint Eastwood huskily declaring that “Our second half is about to begin.”
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  • GOP Candidates to Woo Conservatives at Big Event

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Three of the four GOP presidential candidates are addressing a major conservative gathering in Washington, giving them a high-profile stage to reshape their messages at a moment of uncertainty in the contest. Former Sen. Rick Santorum rocked the Republican world this week by winning caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, plus a nonbinding primary in Missouri.
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  • Obama’s Approval Numbers Climb

    By Naftali Bendavid, Wall Street Journal

    The recent run of positive economic news, modest though it may be, appears to be sinking in with voters and giving President Barack Obama his best approval numbers in a while. The latest Gallup tracking poll shows more people approving of Mr. Obama’s job performance than disapproving, by a 49%-45%. Those numbers are not overwhelming, but the trend is unmistakably good for Mr. Obama; it’s the first time he’s been in positive territory since the start of this year.
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  • The Last, Best Hope for Conservatives

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    At CPAC in 2011, Newt Gingrich took the stage to the stirring sound of Survivor's 1980’s rock anthem "Eye of the Tiger." He walked deliberately through the crowd. Here was Caesar returning from the wars. Tomorrow Gingrich will speak again at the same gathering, but the conservative who most deserves the dramatic, fist-pumping greeting is his presidential rival Rick Santorum: the lonely warrior who has triumphed without playing a soundtrack of self-regard, without the ready millions of Gingrich's gambling-magnate patron, and despite more derision from the elite media than Gingrich has faced.
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Feb 09, 2012

  • Mitt Romney and the Enthusiasm Gap

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    In the aftermath of Rick Santorum’s clean sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Mitt Romney is still, in fact, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. But the lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy among conservatives foreshadows a potentially ugly road ahead to the party’s convention in Tampa and general-election problems if he becomes the nominee.
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  • Republicans Measure Up GOP Candidates

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    Republican activists are not enthusiastic about Mitt Romney because they don't feel he shares the same things that they feel the most passionately about says CNBC's John Harwood.

    Watch Video on CNBC

  • Romney Faces Rebels on the Right and Softness in the Middle

    By Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    The Republican Party may never have been destined to fall in love with Mitt Romney, but even persuading voters to fall in line behind his candidacy is proving far more taxing than he had once hoped. The rejection from Republican voters in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Tuesday is more likely to slow, rather than derail, his path to the party’s presidential nomination. Yet a new competition with Rick Santorum and a lingering feud with Newt Gingrich will consume the attention of Mr. Romney, forcing him to guard his right flank rather than turn his attention to President Obama.
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  • White House Lays Low as Birth Control Dispute Heats Up

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    If the White House had been searching for an issue that could draw sharper contrasts with Republicans over women's health, economic opportunities and freedom, a skirmish with Catholic bishops and others over a requirement that health insurance cover contraception costs might just do it. For yet another day, the White House hung back while the discussion in Washington took on distinctly partisan and gender-rich overtones.
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  • Rick Santorum’s Strategy of Focusing on Low-Key Races Paid Off

    By Rosalind S. Helderman and Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

    Rick Santorum and his supporters moved quickly Wednesday to raise money and redirect their efforts after a surprising Tuesday sweep of three contests again put the former senator from Pennsylvania in position to contend for the Republican nomination. Santorum held a fundraiser in Texas on Wednesday and plans to do the same in Oklahoma on Thursday. His campaign reported raising a quarter of a million dollars after his victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.
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Feb 08, 2012

  • The Vest Man Won

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    Mitt Romney sure hopes there's a safety net. His campaign needs it. His cautious and measured run for the presidency has been thrown off stride by Rick Santorum's victories Tuesday in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. The GOP nominating race has become a clash of vampires and zombies. Candidates like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich appear to die only to rise again, while Mitt Romney walks around not quite alive.
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    Rick Santorum speaks in St. Charles, MO after his multiple wins (CNN)

     

  • Romney Hits Speed Bump Named Santorum

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Rick Santorum's unlikely sweep of three Republican contests on Tuesday punctured the aura of inevitability surrounding Mitt Romney's claim to the nomination and nursed the niggling perception that the front-runner can't close the deal with conservatives. Romney won Minnesota and Colorado in his 2008 presidential bid. On Tuesday, he came in third and second place, respectively. He also lost to Santorum in Missouri.
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  • Obama Campaign Fears Being Sharply Outspent by GOP Super PACs

    By Dan Eggen and Dan Balz, Washington Post

    The Obama campaign, which shattered all records for political fundraising in 2008, has concluded that it could be dramatically outspent this year by the GOP nominee and allied conservative groups, which are able to tap a deep well of money unavailable in previous contests, according to senior aides and advisers.
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  • Victory for Same-Sex Marriage Advocates

    With Pete Williams, NBC News

    Pete Williams reports on the Federal Appeals Court decision on California's same-sex marriage ban.

    Watch Video on NBC News

  • Obama Tries to Ease Ire on Contraception Rule

    By Helene Cooper and Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times

    Facing vocal opposition from religious leaders and an escalating political fight, the White House sought on Tuesday to ease mounting objections to a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Catholic universities and charities — to offer birth control to women free of charge.
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  • Newt and Mitt: Two Guys with Issues

    By Gloria Borger, CNN

    So after all of this drama in the Republican race, we have two major candidates with some very basic questions left unanswered: For Mitt Romney, it's the most basic query of all -- "Who am I?" (Moderate or conservative? Warm or cold? Very rich or very, very rich?) As for Newt Gingrich, he's got to explain to voters that "I'm-not-who-you-think-I-am." (And then behaves as the angry, unpredictable man they think he is.)
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Feb 07, 2012

  • Appeals Court Strikes Down Calif.'s Gay Marriage Ban

    By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, declaring that the 2008 prohibition served "no purpose … other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California." The 2-1 decision, a victory for challengers of Proposition 8 yet narrowly crafted, is the latest in a years-long saga playing out in California but reverberating nationwide.
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